Does Vt. Sex Offender Registry Protect the Public? - WCAX.COM Local Vermont News, Weather and Sports-

Does Vt. Sex Offender Registry Protect the Public?

Montpelier, Vermont - July 24, 2008

"We are going to implement that law. And we're going to do everything we can to inform mothers and fathers about risk factors in their communities," says Lt. Gov. Brian Dubie, R-Vermont.

Dubie is pushing for Vermont to enact the federal laws for sex offender registration contained in the Adam Walsh Act.

A key part of the act requires all states to register all convicted sex offenders and make public their names, photos, offenses, and town and street of residence.

Failure to do so by next July could mean cuts in federal crime fighting grants.

But Dubie says the issue is not money-- it's public safety.

"What can we do together to better protect the children of Vermont?" asks Dubie.

Currently, there are nearly 2,500 people on Vermont's sex offender registry. Their names, specific addresses, and offenses are known to police.

Only about 400 of the most dangerous offenders are listed in the public registry online, but you only get the county and town they live in.

And even for those high risk offenders, the system does not provide for community notification when an offender moves into your neighborhood.

There is no way to search by specific address to see if there are any offenders in your neighborhood.

The only way to get information from police about a specific offender is to already know a name and a neighborhood.

Dubie says he has already spoken with key lawmakers who have indicated they will support enhancing the registry.

Whether that means making public the names and specific addresses of all 2,500 sex offenders is an issue that lawmakers will have to consider. The legislature designed the current system with the intent of protecting privacy and making it easier for offenders to re-integrate into society after completing their sentences.

There has been a lot of clamor about Vermont's sex offender laws following the death of Brooke Bennett, but there is no indication that the registry system itself was an issue in her kidnapping.

Police say the 12-year-old was not the victim of an unidentified predator in neighborhood. The suspect in that case is Michael Jacques-- her uncle. His sex crime history was well-known to Brooke's family and he was on Vermont's public sex offender registry.

Brian Joyce - WCAX News

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